Starting point: University of Pittsburgh
Ending point: United States Naval Academy
Time: 4 hours, 14 minutes
Distance: 267 miles, or the over/under of rushing yards in this game.
Places to see along the way:
Gravity Hill, New Paris, Pennsylvania
Giant Coke Bottle, Hagerstown, Maryland
Municipal Giant Slide, Rocky Ridge, Maryland
A Giant Pineapple, Baltimore, Maryland
NASA Goddard Visitor's Center, Greenbelt, Maryland
Where To Stay
It's very unlikely that there will be any vacancy on homecoming weekend, but my favorite place to stay in Annapolis is the Flag House Inn. Full disclosure: it's owned by the family of a friend of mine. Read the reviews so you don't have to take my word for it. It's great, located right outside the main gate of the Naval Academy in the middle of downtown. You couldn't ask for a better spot. Since that'll probably be full, though, I'd look at one of the hotels on West Street (Loews, Westin, or the O'Callaghan). They're all located within easy stumbling distance of anything you'll want to do downtown, and you can walk to the stadium from there too.
Where To Eat
Annapolis is so full of great bars and restaurants that it's sort of ridiculous to even attempt to narrow the list down. You'll end up liking just about any place you find yourself standing in front of downtown. I floated the question on my message board and a few posters nominated some of their favorites:
- Galway Bay is on Maryland Avenue, which is a little off the main drag but not by much. Excellent Irish food. The soda bread and whiskey tomato soup are recommended.
- Lewnes for steak (across the drawbridge from downtown)
- Carrols Creek on Severn Ave (also across the drawbridge)
- The Boatyard Bar and Grill on Severn Ave (ditto)
- McGarvey's has by far the best raw bar
- Also several great places for brunch, including Regina's (two blocks from the stadium-- get the potato pancakes), Miss Shirley's, and the Annapolis staple, Chick and Ruth's. For dessert go to Annapolis Ice Cream on Main Street.
The two town drinks are both rum - go to Pusser's (the Marriott restaurant) for their Painkillers. Order by number: a 1 has a little rum, a 3 has a little not-rum. Anywhere else, order a dark and stormy, which is dark rum and ginger beer.
What To Do On & Around Campus
There are guided walking tours of USNA that leave from the visitor's center daily (Monday – Friday: 10 a.m. until 3 p.m., Saturday: 9:30 a.m. until 3 p.m., Sunday: 12:00 p.m. until 3:00 p.m.). You could just as easily wander around on your own. If you arrive early enough on Friday, catch noon meal formation at T-Court (the big plaza in front of Bancroft Hall, the dormitory). You'll also be able to see Tecumseh, a bronzed figurehead from a Civil War warship that Mids paint before each home game. If you don't take one of the tours out of the visitor's center, some highlights you shouldn't miss:
- Bancroft Hall: the building all the Mids live in, it has a midshipman display room, impressive artwork, the "Don’t Give Up the Ship" flag, and Memorial Hall. Memorial Hall may have remembrance ceremonies going on.
- The Chapel: It's spectacular. John Paul Jones's crypt is underneath and a must-see. The Herndon Monument (the one all the plebes climb at the end of the school year) is across the street.
- Preble Hall: The Naval Academy museum. Right around the corner is Mahan Hall, home of the school's history department, which is currently hosting an exhibit on the War of 1812.
- Dahlgren Hall: Drydock restaurant if you want a snack while wandering around.
- Lejuene Hall: There's a cool Navy athletics history display upstairs. Also home to the Navy swimming & water polo teams.
- Visitor Center: Buy a Beat Army shirt at the gift shop because Beat Army.
You can't go 50 feet without walking into some kind of interesting memorial on campus. Also, because this is homecoming week, there will be a parade on Friday at 4:00 on Worden Field. There is also the Halloween ORGAN SPECTACULAR at the chapel on Friday and Saturday night.
Gameday Traditions To Take Part In
The midshipmen march from USNA to the stadium before every game, then march onto the field. You don't want to miss that. Once you're inside the stadium, walk over to the west end zone plaza (the one with the giant scoreboard) and check out the memorial arches and the plaques from those who donated to the stadium's construction fund in 1958. After the game, stick around for the singing of Navy Blue and Gold, the school's alma mater. Yell "Beat Army" at the end because Beat Army.
Other "Good To Know" Information
Annapolis was founded in 1649. The streets haven't changed much since then, so unless you're riding into town on a horse, things can be pretty tight. Don't panic though. Just take a few extra laps around the traffic circle and eventually you'll figure out which street you want to turn onto.
Expect to pay for parking just about anywhere you go downtown. Always think "traffic," "hard to find parking," and "walking time" and plan accordingly. Keep in mind that you cannot drive onto the Yard (campus) without a Department of Defense sticker on your car, so your best bet is to park downtown and walk.
Parking is also an issue at the stadium on game day. If you haven't already bought a parking pass, you won't be able to park in the stadium lots. Your options:
- Park in one of the offsite parking lots in downtown Annapolis available on game day. Depending on the lot, you could either walk or take Annapolis Transit to the stadium. Clearly not a tailgating option.
- Park at Harry Truman Park-and-Ride (located on Riva Road) and take the free shuttle to the stadium. This is ok if your hotel is out this way and you aren't planning on tailgating.
- Pay to park at a local school or church. Get there early, because they fill up in a hurry. Remember that march-on is one hour prior to the game, and Taylor Avenue will be closed from Rowe Blvd to gate 6.
- Germantown Elementary School. Right around the corner from the stadium. This is the best option, but again, get there early.
This Saturday's weather in Annapolis is sunny and 55 degrees. You can't ask for more beautiful weather to tour an amazing town and the academy. Just remember, if you've learned nothing else from this post, that all you need to say is "Beat Army" and you will be gladly accepted.